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« Remembering Rutger Hauer (1944-2019) | Main | Doc Corner: Oscar-nominated 'Streetwise' and its 35-years-later sequel »
Wednesday
Jul242019

YNMS: "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"

by Lynn Lee

It’s here!  The trailer for the much-anticipated Mister Rogers movie, starring Tom Hanks as everyone’s favorite neighbor, dropped Monday…and a million Gen-Xers wept tears of pure nostalgia.  But what does the trailer reveal about the film that we didn’t already know?  Not a whole lot, as it turns out.  Let’s break it down...


YES

  • Tom Hanks is the only named player here, and for a reason – he’s just about the only actor today who radiates Mister Rogers-level warmth, wholesomeness, and sheer decency.  (though see “No,” below)
  • Matthew Rhys finally gets a meaty big-screen role!  After “The Americans,” I’ll watch him in anything, and OMG HIS EYES at 1:40
  • “Please don’t ruin my childhood.”  A droll and canny nod to every viewer’s silent prayer.  Not to fear, though: the movie’s apparently based on this 1998 Esquire profile of Rogers  by a writer who went from skeptic to convert to the all-conquering goodness of Mister Rogers.
  • “This Thanksgiving” – yeeesss.  The perfect Thanksgiving movie to see with one’s family; If Mister Rogers can’t magically unite us and the relatives we wanted to throttle at dinner, no one can.

NO

  • Like last year’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the movie seems to be giving Rogers the hagiographic treatment, which may be justified but doesn’t make for much dramatic tension.
  • Tom Hanks doesn’t look anything like Mister Rogers.  (He almost has the voice down, but not quite.)  He doesn’t have that birdlike, slightly awkward yet graceful bearing, and his toss of the shoe from one hand to the other lacks Rogers’ effortless fluidity.
  • I try not to judge performances from trailers, but what we see of Hanks’ here seems a bit...stilted?  Or like he’s trying too hard.

MAYBE SO

  • Still…it’s Tom Hanks.  He’s built up a ton of cred that at the very least earns him the benefit of the doubt.
  • If this movie does get Oscar traction, I think we can all smell major category fraud coming given that Rhys is clearly the lead…or is he?  Was Nick Carraway the lead of The Great Gatsby?
  • While not the most visually interesting trailer, it’s smart enough to hit us in the feels with its glimpses of a faithfully recreated Neighborhood.  And that iconic red cardigan is like a little spot of joy.
  • No mention of director Marielle Heller, who brought us the wonderful Can You Ever Forgive Me? and well-received Diary of a Teenage Girl – but if anyone can bring a needed edge and shade to this project, it’s her. 
  • And even if she doesn’t, couldn’t we all use a heaping dose of sweetness and light right about now?

Despite my reservations, as someone who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and as a fan of both Hanks and Rhys (and Heller, based on Can You Ever Forgive Me? alone), barring terrible reviews I’m a YES.  It’ll be interesting to see if the movie ends up being to Won’t You Be My Neighbor? what the lackluster On the Basis of Sex was to RBG.  But I suspect it’ll get a huge boost from the combined star power of Hanks and our collective memory of a real-life hero who exemplified kindness, empathy, and modesty – qualities that are sadly in short supply among our public figures today.

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Reader Comments (25)

Yes for Rhys and Heller... but I agree on Hanks. He doesn't disappear into his characters. That's not a bad thing - we need old-fashioned movie stars! But it means he probably shouldn't be cast in biopics of well-known figures (it was a problem for me with The Post as well, because as a news junkie I just couldn't believe him as Ben Bradlee).

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Yes! I was tearing up at the subway scene

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Gen-Yers too! It's going to be awfully hard for this to equal the greatness of "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I am a no. The documentary was perfect and featured the real Fred Rogers. This will be a saccharine self-love product designed for Oscar nods.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

I really don't want to see it but I know I will because of the 243 awards nominations is going to get.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I hate the title

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

This made me tear up as I just love Mister Rogers and Tom Hanks is definitely hitting the right notes for that character.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Mh...maybe so.
I don't know Fred Rogers but i think Tom Hanks looks good in the role, also Matthew Rhys but.... 'Feel-good' movies are not my hit.

What i can't believe is that i haven't seen the previous films of Marielle Heller, maybe after watch them i can decide.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

I used to want my actors looking just like their real life counterparts in biopics, but Fassbender as Jobs changed the game for me. A strong enough performance with the right posture, the right wardrobe... I see your concerns with Hanks here, but I'm excited.

And here's a fun game: If you're going for an actor who could resemble Mr. Rogers, celebrity bias aside, who do you cast? Ed Norton?

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDevin D

Devin D: Well, I mean, Norton's already done a performance of an idealistic kids show host. I mean, it was mock Barney, not Mr. Rogers, and it was in, well, Death to Smoochy. I know, I know, divisive movie, and I do understand why, but Norton's performance there is easily top 5 career best (along with Primal Fear, Larry Flynt, American History X, and Fight Club) so I wouldn't be opposed to Norton doing, effectively, a bio-drama reprise of that work. (Note: I was NOT really impressed by his Birdman performance. I'd have respected them giving the nod to Zach Galifianakis for that movie more than giving it to Norton.)

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

hagiographic? ha no clue what that means big brains. within context you mean the angelic treatment?

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

@Volvagia
Yes, i love Edward Norton in Death to Smoochy too ( but in general i found more interesting comic roles than serious dramas ). I also feel a little forced his nomination in Birdman but, Galifianakis?. To me would it be enough to nominated Michael Keaton but is good to know different tastes.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Excited by the movie (actors, director) but that trailer was a turn off for me. I have no idea who Mr. Rogers is and didn't hear from him until last year so I don't have that nostalgic feeling. Still a Yes.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? was one of my favourites from last year. I’m not looking forward to this. Tom Hanks seems so wrong for this.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

This doesn't do much for me at all beyond Heller's involvement (and even then I don't see it there). I wasn't taken by the doc and I have no nostalgic reference for Mr Rogers. I suspect if I wind up seeing it I'll think "that was nice" and move on very quickly. I'll probably only see it if it becomes an awards contender (especially since it probably won't even come out here for a while anyway as he wasn't aired in Australia and they'll probably wait until Jan/Feb/March once it's racked up awards).

I am a bit sick of the "journalist comes in to write the story" angle though.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Tom Hanks just seems wrong for this, but that being said, I can't offer or think of a strong alternative to who should be playing Mr. Rogers...the documentary was superb, maybe we should have just left it at that?

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterZach

Not so sure. Hmm. I loved last year's documentary and think maybe that was enough. I'll see how the buzz is when it's out.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I found interesting some arguments who says that will see it if gets some awards attention. Neither the awards or box office will predict if you gonna like some movie or not, just watch it.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Go preach somewhere else, César

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMaritza

Suzanne - spot on. It's when you have movie stars with distinct personas playing *other* iconic figures with distinct personas that the fit seems uncomfortable. But we shall see.

And Devin, good point re Fassbender as Jobs. I had similar quibbles about that casting but ended up loving the performance. I will say, though, that for both Jobs and Ben Bradlee (I also liked Hanks in "The Post"), I could be more dispassionate since neither of those guys had as primal or formative an *emotional* impact on me as Mr Rogers. Based on these comments alone, I think there's going to be a divide in the movie's reception between those who knew Mr Rogers as a cultural icon and those who didn't.

As for who else could play Rogers, I saw a comment on another site that it's too bad we couldn't do a time warp and bring back Jimmy Stewart for the role. Ed Norton could do it, but he lacks that quality of warmth.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Lee

I have total faith in Heller because of what she did for Melissa and Richard last year and with the ensemble overall.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

@Maritza
I guess i'm just "preaching" with the younger version of myself.

Thanks to that words i have become more open to watch movies from around the world, from different times and diverse genres, no matter the names involved. At the end of the day is not an impositive matter, just a personal thinking.

The recurrent posts expressing my ideas are just consecuence of having a lot of death time at work XD

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

There are moments when Hanks' attempts to reproduce Rogers' distinctive sing-song cadence sounds too close to Forrest Gump for comfort.

July 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

YES YES YES

July 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

"...a million Gen-Xers wept tears of pure nostalgia..."

Hey, millennials love Mr. Rogers too! He was on the air through 2001!

July 31, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterStuart F

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